Not on the same page
I have always been a bedtime reader - it’s how I settle myself at the end of the day. How I detach (as much as possible) from the problems and worries and entanglements of life and ease my mind into rest.
The idea of not reading before bed makes me anxious - if I don’t do it, it means I’m either very sick or utterly exhausted. Just the thought is putting me on edge now.
So, last week, when I turned to Chapter 4 of The Artist’s Way and read this:
Warning: Do not skip the tool of reading deprivation.
… I felt everything in my body freeze.
Above this warning, the chapter summary hints at a week of introspection and self-awareness, one that could be “both very difficult and extremely exciting”. That’s why I’m doing this, right? To still my mind, to release space. But no, instead of rising to the challenge, my mind fixated on NO READING.
I flicked ahead to the relevant section of the chapter and skim-read that.
In my teaching, the week that I assign reading deprivation is always a tough one. I go to my podium knowing that I will be the enemy. I break the news that we won’t be reading and then I brace myself for the waves of antagonism and sarcasm that follow.
Well … yeah.
I’ve been wondering why this week I haven’t felt on the same page with my creative self. I was doing so well - completing the tasks, writing morning pages, making room for artist dates (the most recent was singing ABBA songs at the top of my lungs for 15 minutes in the car). I even had a refreshed mindset about the way forward for my next book. Ideas were flowing.
So what happened?
I ticked off the reasons on my hand(s):
a specialist appointment that resulted in a decision to have further thumb surgery (sometime this year)
a suddenly not-empty nest
being worried/anxious about current life
feeling like I’m carrying too many worries for other people
my birthday and catch-ups with family
being tired from day-to-day to-do lists
editing someone’s novel (which takes my focus from my own creativity to someone else’s)
I could go on. It’s often easy to justify not doing something.
As I wondering what to write today, I realised something. These are valid reasons but they are also excuses.
I could have made time.
The truth is, I felt my grasp on my creative recovery falter the second I read the words “reading deprivation”.
And I let go.
I closed down.
I don’t like conflict at the best of times and for me, this was BIG inner conflict. I did not know this was coming, and I did not like it one bit.
Besides, I asked, how could not reading help? (My husband asked the same thing.)
I did not want to go there, so I didn’t go anywhere.
The idea of not reading was too hard for me to face, so I read every night and in my lunch breaks and whenever I could.
But I did not pick up The Artist’s Way again. I did not do morning pages. I didn’t even attempt my own creative writing.
Sure, like I said earlier, it would have been more difficult to write this week - circumstances have been challenging. Some weeks and seasons are like this.
But if I’m honest with myself - and that’s the point of this - I let myself get stuck in a past chapter. I can blame circumstances, but I know the truth.
I was scared.
I didn’t like it.
So I froze.
Wow. Knowing this, accepting this about myself, means that if I am to continue this creative recovery and complete this course, I have to allow myself to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” I have to step into discomfort.
I am still scared.
And there’s a pile of books next to my bedside that are calling to be read.
It appears that I am not alone in my wariness, my discomfort at being blindsided. Here’s another blog post about “reading deprivation week” from another creative. She says the point of this exercise is to “clear out all of the distractions and force us to reflect on our inner silence.”
I get it.
But I’m still scared.
I’ll let you know how I go.
How does the idea of not reading make you feel? If you’ve done The Artist’s Way, how did you feel? What did you do with your time? I’d love your feedback here.